A Georgia elementary school principal insisted on paddling a five-year-old student — and told the boy’s mother that if she tried to intervene he would be suspended and she would go to jail, the boy's mom said.
Shana Marie Perez, of Covington, Ga., posted two videos on Facebook showing the Wednesday dispute at Jasper Primary School, southeast of Atlanta, along with her son’s efforts to resist.
"I couldn’t do anything to stop them," Perez wrote in a post accompanying one of the videos.
By Thursday at 6 p.m., the footage had been viewed nearly a million times. Perez, who confirmed the videos to NBC News, said she did not post a third clip showing the paddling.
In a statement, the Jasper County School District said it "is aware of the video released by Ms. Perez. Unfortunately, the district is barred by state and federal law from commenting about the specifics of this incident. The district respects every student's right to privacy."
The statement added that under school rules, which it says are provided to all parents, corporal punishment is permitted "as one of the consequences of behavior."
It added: "When corporal punishment is used, it is with parental consent. The district is investigating the incident and looking into its discipline policies at this time."
Almost half the school districts Georgia state allow the practice, NBC Atlanta affiliate WXIA reported.
"The sheriff’s office would not have pursued criminal charges ... no probable cause exists to substantiate the commission of a crime"
Perez described the dispute with school administrators as longstanding and attributed it to her son's medical problems. Without providing details of his condition, she told WXIA that her son had missed 18 days this year.
She told the station that those administrators — citing her son’s poor attendance record — already had her arrested for truancy, and that when Wednesday’s dispute erupted she was out of jail on bond. She feared that if her son missed another day her bond would be revoked.
“They told me if he could not get a paddling he would have to be suspended and if he got suspended for even one day I WILL go to jail for truancy,” she wrote in the Facebook post. “I could not go to jail or my kids would have nothing.”
In a statement to NBC News, Jasper County Sheriff Donnie Pope said that records showed Perez's son had 18 unexcused absences and as well as more than 20 incidences of "excessive tardiness."
Pope added: "Ms. Perez would NOT have been re-arrested for the suspension in question ... The sheriff’s office would not have pursued criminal charges based on the fact that an out of school suspension would not have shown negligence on the part of Ms. Perez since OSS absences are not within the parent’s control. After reviewing the facts of this case, no probable cause exists to substantiate the commission of a crime."
Perez also told WXIA that she believed she had signed a form earlier in the school year prohibiting corporal punishment on her son, but administrators disputed that.